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  • Gemma Elaine

Week 4: More refining the project and Case Studies

Updated: Aug 5, 2021

New Project Description

My project is focused on how we might use visual communication design to explore positive representations of people with highly visible birthmarks as a way to promote body positivity in this area. I will interview various adults with prominent birthmarks about their experiences as a child and as an adult with a birthmark with a view to discover any difficulties and insights they have about living with a visible difference.
Living with a visible difference can be difficult and in the formative years when low self-esteem is already an issue for many it can be even more difficult to cope when you have something visible that marks you as “different”. Parents of children with prominent birthmarks often have concerns about self-esteem and bullying. I believe they and their children could benefit from seeing their conditions better represented in a media form. This could be in the form of a picture book, informational brochures, awareness campaign,s or workbooks.
From my own experience and from anecdotes from other adults with birthmarks many people develop a better relationship with their birthmarks as they get older. I want to research how an adult’s relationship with their birthmark has changed from when they were a child and if there is anything they wish they knew growing up. I also want to examine existing literature on the subject to research the impact of birthmarks on the barer, any self-confidence building techniques. I also want to research the myths and previous representations of birthmarks and how they might impact those with birthmarks and what the benefits of positive representation can have on self-confidence

Again my description was deemed too broad, however, if I pick either body positivity or representation, I could be pretty much there.

In Class

In class, we covered Case Studies as a research method this week. This is definitely a method I will be using if not just using myself as a case study. I'd likely be using Illustrative Case Studies and Cumulative Case Studies in my research. I'd have to be careful of the following:

My Research

I did some more reading this week, some of it more hard going than others - reading medical journals can be difficult when you're not trained to do so.

One paper I found was a Clinical Psychology Doctoral Dissertation focussed on the phycological effects on parents of children with facial differences. The paper was called A GT study of parent adjustment after the birth of a child with a facial birthmark by Lucy Gait. I found that a lot of this paper's work was quite relevant to my own research. Below is the abstract:

Little is known about the experiences of parental adjustment following the birth of a child with a facial birthmark due to a scarcity of literature. The literature within the fields of cleft lip and palate (CL/P) and cranio-facial abnormality (CFA) suggest that there are many factors involved in the process of parental adjustment. The aim of this project was to explore how parents adjust following the birth of their child with a facial birthmark. In-depth interviews were conducted with 13 parents of children aged between birth and two years old. The data was analysed using a Constructivist Grounded Theory approach and a model of adjustment was co-constructed from the data. It appears that parents move through a process of adjustment, that begins with coping with the initial shock and uncertainty before moving on to understanding the birthmark and treatment options, making sense of the birthmark, developing coping strategies and adjusting to birthmark. This process is affected by the availability of resources and the extent of social challenges experienced by the parents. The findings of this study indicate that psychology should be routinely involved with the assessment of parental psycho-social well-being and psycho-social support should be promoted for these families. Furthermore, greater training about birthmarks for medical professionals is recommended.

As you can see below I went a little highlighter happy. I'll definitely be looking into some of the studies Gait used in her paper.

Paper 2: Growing up with a facial hemangioma: parent and child coping and adaptation

Facial hemangiomas in young children can cause significant psychological and social distress for their parents. Facial hemangiomas are birthmarks that usually appear on the face after birth, grow for some years, then often regress substantially by 9 years of age. Researchers interviewed parents of 25 children with facial hemangiomas aged 5 months to 8 years, and found that many felt disbelief, panic, sadness and guilt related to growth of the lesion. Many found reactions of strangers in public stressful, avoided going out with the child, or had been wrongly accused of child abuse.

This paper can be found here

This was another paper addressing the distress for parents and discusses some of the issues I know my mother faced when I was a baby. Although this paper is discussing hemangiomas I find many of the points covered are still relevant to permanent birthmarks.

The below quote was particularly interesting to me:

I think this a fabulous way to raise a kid with a birthmark, preparing them with the tools to deal with questions.

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